In with the New, In with the Old: 2017 Legislative Session Convenes
The 2017 General Assembly session convened today, featuring the swearing in of new and veteran lawmakers in the state Senate and state House of Representatives and an austerity speech from Governor Dannel Malloy.
The Governor addressed a joint session of the Legislature to begin laying the groundwork for his two-year budget address on February 8th. The Governor indicated he will seek to patch budget deficits projected to reach $1.5 billion in each of the next two fiscal years (2017-18) by cutting costs at the state and local government levels and making the state retirement system more affordable.
Among the newly minted leaders are House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz of Berlin and House Majority Leader Matter Ritter of Hartford. The House now features a 78-72* Democratic majority, while the Senate is deadlocked in a tie, 17-17**, after the GOP gained three seats in the general election (Democratic Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman can cast the tiebreaking vote).
Under a power-sharing agreement reached late last month between Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate, GOP Leader Len Fasano assumed the title of GOP President Pro Tem and his caucus was given more authority over what business comes before the Senate chamber. Also, at the committee level, Senate Republicans and Democrats will each have a co-chair, and equal representation.
Under the new rules, the House will maintain one committee co-chair, bringing the total number of chairs on each committee to three, while the total number of legislative committees remains unchanged at 22. This gives Republicans greater influence over what bills ultimately come out of committee.
In his opening remarks to the Legislature, Governor Malloy urged policymakers to exercise bipartisanship and fairness in decision making and said his 2018-19 budget proposal will feature:
- Continued emphasis on government efficiency and modernization.
- Ongoing efforts to make the state retirement system more affordable.
- Provisions to address the largest fixed expense in the budget: municipal aid.
- A new education formula that provides equal access based on student need, current enrollment and community property tax burden.
Note: To date, only the House Republicans have announced their committee assignments. With the swearing-in ceremony behind us and new leaders in place, we expect to see co-chairs and remaining committee assignments released in the next few days.
*The House will have one special election: Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, has accepted a gubernatorial appointment to the Board of Pardons and Paroles. He was not sworn in today.
** There will be two special elections in the Senate: As part of a last-minute agreement before the 2017 session convened, GOP Senator Rob Kane of Watertown, and Democratic Senator Eric Coleman of Bloomfield, both stepped down to pursue other opportunities, leaving the chamber evenly split in what are generally considered safe seats for their respective parties.
Special elections will likely take place in mid- to late-February.